Hey! Randy

Posted by heyrandy on February 17, 2012


Bobos in Paradise
, David Brooks, 2000

The world has changed from getting ahead by family connections to getting ahead by examination passing. The new group is the bobos, bourgeois Bohemians. We used to call them yuppies, but Brooks coined this term to better express the nature of this group.

Bobos drive for success. They strive, they excel, they  succeed. They are the ones who score perfect on the SAT exam, both sections. They are now filling the élite schools. Gone are the sons of the alumni, in are the test passers. All this is fodder for Brooks assessment of bobos.

Including himself in the group, the author looks at the major facets of bobo life: their education, their purchases, their business dealings, their intellectual life, pleasures, spiritual life, and politics.

Bobos don’t just exist, they be. They do things their way. As long as it’s acceptable to bobo mores, they will do anything. Bobos value the individual for his achievements as long as the achievements are the right kind. It is very good to be an honors graduate, but if it is at a third tier school, no good. It is good to make lots of money, but if that money is from real estate development, it is just evil. Software is so much more acceptable.

This kind of thinking drives bobos. They buy just the right stuff. It is acceptable to spend ridiculous amounts of money on everyday items, but you must do it the bobo way. A $25,000 stove? Sure, but not a $15,000 on a sound system with wide-screen TV. $400 mountain boots are acceptable, even requisite. You may never get near the Himalayas, but the boots will keep your feet safe in the “frozen food aisle at the Safeway.”  When he was at Microsoft’s campus, Brooks observed many employees dressed in climbing gear. Glacial sunglasses were especially popular. I guess Seattle is immune from the Algore.

Brooks best sums up bobo life by saying the bobos live life as if it were  graduate school. I think they live as if they were playing childhood games in their backyard.

Bobo come off as superficial, pretentious, and vain. They may be rich (Some are very rich, but it is  usually not the intellectual bobos. They are usually just academic hacks, even when at élite schools.) and smart, but they are pathetic. It is easy to disdain them, as they do us, but we all have our folkways to live by. Hauteur is not confined to the graduate school set. I view the book as a cautionary tale: This is me in other conditions.

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